OH, IT MEANS THAT?
The title of my homily for this Saturday in the First Week of Lent is, “Oh, It Means That?”
Before I came to
worked on the road in
- and various other places - giving parish missions. Some priest in some parish
told the following story at supper one evening. He was saying Mass and this
baby was crying - and babies crying didn’t bother him. “In fact,” he added, “I
liked it, because the parish I had just been in was all old people and no
“Well, after Mass,” he said, “this lady came up to me complaining about the lady with the baby - how she shouldn’t been there - and should have taken herself and the baby outside. Then the complainer added, ‘That Lady with the baby is obviously Spanish. What is she doing here?’”
The priest said, “I was surprised at all this - not angry - but surprised - so I said to the lady after some silence, ‘Isn’t that what it means to love one another?’”
“Big pause.” The he said, the lady said, “Oh, it means that?”
In today’s gospel, Jesus says to love our enemies. In today’s gospel, Jesus says, “What’s so great about loving and greeting only your own?”
I don’t know about you, but I like to hear these gospels over and over again, because I need to be challenged by Jesus’ words over and over again.
There are two or three kinds of people: those we like and those we don’t understand or can’t stand. Life is easy with those we like - but Jesus wants us to love the pains - the drainers - the different - the strange rangers.
“Oh, It Means That?”
I don’t know about you, but I could relate to the title of that book, “Up The Down Staircase.”
Thank goodness for fire codes - because that means there are back doors - other stair cases - because sometimes some people wear us out. I had a funny one recently. I snook out the back door, so as not to be caught by so and so - and surprise, he was waiting for me in the garden.
When we priests come down the aisle for Sunday Masses - sometimes we hear the words, “Oh no, not him!”
That hurts. That kills morale. That’s a wipe out.
And I’m a priest 46 ½ years now - and I know we priests say the same thing about some parishioners.
That’s the nitty gritty stuff of life. And this doesn’t just happen in churches, it happens at family weddings and funerals and at the work place. And if I hear Jesus in today’s gospel and at various times, this is exactly where Jesus goes - when he says, “Turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile. Take up the cross.”
No wonder they killed him. A tiny whispered “Oh no!” when we come down the aisle is nothing compared to the whole crowd screaming, “Crucify him.”
“Oh, it means that?”
Yup, it means that - and a lot more.
Those who get this - and try to live this - who try to be like God who sends his sun [SUN] - and Son [SON] and rain [RAIN] and reign [REIGN] on the just as the unjust as we heard in today’s gospel - will be considered peculiar - as we heard in today’s first reading. God is peculiar and calls us to be peculiarly his own. God is also perfect - and calls us to be perfect. Tough act to follow. “Oh, it means that?”
Picture on top: Cover of The New York Times Magazine, Sunday Nov. 13, 2011. Title: "The Human Swap - How a single Israeli came to be worth 1,027 Palestinians. Illustration by Tim Enthoven.